Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 10 / OCTOBER 1985 / PAGE 46

Gall that Jazz; Lotus' Macintosh product is a clinker. (evaluation) John J. Anderson.

Here's a riddle for you: What's worthy in its strategic concept, displays at least one intelligent and powerful feature, but is disappointingly weak in its execution, a case study in compromise, plagued by bugs and delays, obsolete at the time of introduction, and heinously overpriced? Well, the MX missile may spring to mind, but unfortunately, so might Lotus Jazz. And after the mushroom cloud of expectation, hype, and brand-identification blows over, the fallout will begin, mark my words.

Sax and Violins

Don't overreact. There is nothing wrong with Jazz that a few healthy software revisions can't patch. Then again, not much of it is really right, either--right in the way it really should have been if it could have been. The problem is, it really couldn't have been--not with a top limit of 512K on the current generation Macintosh. Lotus is surely not to be blamed on that score--except for the fact that they went ahead and released a product that is really rather mediocre and sports a price tag of $600.

In case you have been locked in a refrigerated computer room since the introduction of the Macintosh, I should explain that Jazz is the integrated software package for the Mac from the people who brought us 1-2-3 and Symphony, two excellent integrated packages for the IBM PC. Like its brethren, Jazz features word processing, database, spreadsheet, business graphics, and terminal modules side by side, so you can slip from one to another without booting between programs. Jazz is unarguably the longest-awaited software packaged for the Macintosh, and the one upon which Apple itself has pinned its hopes--hopes that Jazz will help the Mac crack the business market, where it has come up hard against IBM. There is irony in that hope, as you will discover.

You must have a Fat Mac just to boot Jazz, and you must have an external drive, too. The program takes up 380K and must reside on two disks to coexist with system files. Therefore, you must cut your desk accessories down to bare minimum. Of course, not all program modules reside in memory simultaneously; some space (about 200K) must be left for your data (which can only reside in RAM--no virtual memory posible). Certain modules read only from disk when they are called, and this makes Jazz slow, slow, slow to execute from floppies. If you have a hard disk drive rather than an external disk you are somewhat better off.

Word Processing Module

If you thought MacWrite was a bare-bones word processor, you'll find the word processing module of Jazz positively austere. Although it does allow multiple document windows, which MacWrite does not, the module can support no document longer than 20.5 pages, and that only when none of the other modules is holding data. In other respects the module is a virtual MacWrite clone, the fact of which I found quite disappointing.

Database Module

The database module is another serious compromise. Its capacity is fair, allowing up to 100 fields of 254 characters per record, with a maximum of up to 1900 small-sized records. Data fields can be set in documents, so this module can merge into the word processing module. A serviceable report generator helps process database information.

Using the module is straight-forward and simple, but don't look for the sophistication of a relational database. The fact is that the database module is rather like a spreadsheet with a fancy front end; its files consist of records and fields in a two-dimensional matrix.

Every time you want to add a record, you have to pull down a menu, as well, which is darned annoying. And don't try to store non-text data, because you can't. And don't try to size or move a report generator window, because you can't. The more experience you have with Macintosh, the more offensive you find this sort of inconsistancy in the user interface.

Spreadsheet Module

The spreadsheet module is one of the stronger facets of Jazz. It can handle up to 8192 rows x 256 columns. You can have more than one worksheet open at a time, and the ease of point-and-click really shines when constructing worksheets. But even this module is plagued by omissions. The least excusable is that no macros are possible--nor are split screes.

Business Graphics Module

The graphics module is by far the strongest element of Jazz, and remarkably, I found not very much wrong with it. Of course, Microsoft Chart is much more powerful, but this module is easier to use, and having a graphics program integrated with a spreadsheet is a real convenience.

Telecommunications Module

Just as the word processing module seems a subset of MacWrite, the telecommunications module seems a cloned subset of MacTerminal. In the case of the word processing module, at least the bare-boned grace of MacWrite seems to shine through. Unfortunately, MacTerminal was absolutely the wrong communications package to clone.

The Jazz module does work, and features an answerback mode as does MacTerminal. On the negative side, like MacTerminal it does not support auto-logon sequences or macros of any kind. It is clumsy to configure and clumsy to use.

MacTerminal was designed by a programmer who failed to understand the needs of telecommunications users, and as a practically identical subset of it, the Jazz communications module falls on its face as well. Worst is the fact that all incoming communications grind to a halt when you click to another window. Forget about getting something else done while data downloads.

HotView: The Saving Grace

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that at least one thing about Jazz was rather good, and it is possible that by now your curiosity is piqued as to what that one rather good thing is. It is HotView, which is the name Lotus has given to the dynamic clipboard feature of Jazz.

alongside the regulation clipboard, which allows you to cut and paste static elements between windows, HotView lets you update graphs simply by updating the spreadsheet--or even update the graphs in a word processing document simply by updating the spreadsheet. Neat, simple, elegant, and truly hot! But is the feature worth $600? (To be droned in the singsong drawl of the late great John Belushi) Noooooo!

The alternatives

So, where does that leave us? Well, I'm not about to recommend that anyone go out and pick up a copy of Jazz--at least not at its current price. Save up another $600 and buy yourself a hard disk drive. Then you won't need an integrated package--the drive is fast enough to move you between applications at a tolerable rate. After a RAM upgrade, a hard disk drive is the best next thing you can do for your Mac. Even with a Fat Mac with single drive and no hard disk, you can do better than Jazz, and I'll show you how.

First, get a copy of Switcher by Andy Hertzfield. Price: free. Under Switcher, you can run Microsoft Multiplan and Microsoft Chart side by side. You might even be able to cram MacWrite into the RAMdisk, if you don't need much space for your own data.

Then get the Mock Package desk accessories by Donald Brown. Price: $15, if you are honest--it's shareware. These give you word processing, terminal, and print driver modules in the form of desk accessories, which can be pulled down at any time, and share the desktop applications. By the way, the terminal desk accessory can continue to receive data even after you have clicked to another window.

Of course, there are other options possible as well. More powerful spreadsheets for the Mac, like Crunch (to be reviewed in a future issue) offer powerful graphics modules alongside high-powered worksheets. Careful planning of which two packages you want to run under Switcher, combined with truly useful desk accessories, can result in a desktop twice as powerful as Jazz for half the money, despite the lack of a HotView feature.

And once the shackles come off the ill-advised 512K current limit of the Mac, we will see Mac RAM memories in the 1 or 2Mb range. When this happens, two things will result: 1) The Macintosh will suddenly become a viable business machine, even with existing software, and 2) Lotus Jazz will list for under $300 and still be a slow mover.

Do Me A Favor

Please make a mental note that the only computer magazine on the market today with enough guts to tell you the honest, unadulterated truth about Lotus Jazz is good old Creative Computing. And remember, even if you own Jazz, things could be worse--at least you haven't bought toilet seats from the Pentagon.

Products: Lotus Jazz (computer program)